An oncology nurse is appealing to women in West Norfolk and the surrounding area to go for their smear tests to prevent developing cervical cancer.
Denise Lintill, a specialist nurse at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, supports on average two women each year who are battling against advanced cervical cancer and is stressing the importance of attending screening appointments.
Every year more than 3,000 women in the UK are told the devastating news that they have cervical cancer; however a smear test can prevent 75% of cervical cancers from developing.
Up to 72.3% of eligible women, aged between 25 and 64, attend a cervical screening test with a West Norfolk GP in 2017/18 but it is hoped to increase this number.
Denise is supporting Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which runs between January 21 and 27 by Jo’s Trust.
Denise said: “I cannot explain how tragic it is when a patient, who has just been told that she has advanced cervical cancer, asks if it could have been picked up earlier if she had attended a smear test. It is really heart breaking when you see the realization in their eyes.
“If women go for their screening tests they are unlikely to go on to develop cancer as abnormalities are picked up at an early stage but sadly the majority of patients we see for advanced cancer have not been for their smear.
“The screening appointments are not the most dignified but they only take 10 minutes and they are a life saver. We are lucky to have this programme.
“I would really like to encourage all women to go for their smears, they are a free test and you can ask for a female nurse or doctor. Please don’t chance it.”
Cervical screening was introduced in the 1980s and is estimated to prevent at least 2,000 cases of cervical cancer each year.
While the vast majority of tests are normal, women who are found to have abnormal cells are referred onto a specialist within two weeks.
Denise said: “Thanks to the smear test, we mainly see people with pre-cancerous cells. Those cells are not cancerous at this point but we need to treat them before they become cancer. I know how worrying it is when people hear the word cancer.”
The next stage is for women to be examined by a procedure called Colposcopy. A dye is painted onto the cervix to highlight abnormal cells and a biopsy taken which is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
Denise said: “The Colposcopy takes 15 to 20 minutes long and it aims to remove all of those abnormal cells so they do not develop into cancer.
“The youngest patient I have seen with cervical cancer is 21, which is below the national screening age. If anyone has irregular bleeding or spotting then please go along to speak to your GP.”
Dr Uma Balasubramaniam, a GP and West Norfolk CCG’s clinical lead for gynaecology, said “It’s so important that women in west Norfolk take up the offer of a smear test. It’s a few minutes out of your day that can prevent serious illness. We want to see every eligible woman in west Norfolk coming in for the test, and we hope that this awareness week will encourage you to do so. Patients tell me that the biggest barrier to having the test is they find it uncomfortable – www.jostrust.org.uk has some great tips on simple things you can do to make the experience better for you.”
Tips to make cervical screening better for you:
- You can ask for a nurse or doctor of a particular gender – for example, a female nurse.
- Take someone you trust with you. It could be a friend, family member, partner or someone else. They can be in the waiting room or examination room with you to offer support. They may also be able to speak on your behalf about any worries.
- Talk to your nurse or doctor. If it is your first cervical screening, you feel embarrassed or worried, you have had a bad experience before, or you have experienced anything that makes the test hard for you, telling the person doing the test means they can try to give you the right support. If you don’t feel comfortable saying something, try writing it down.
- If you feel uncomfortable, wear a skirt or dress. You can keep this on during the test, which may help you feel more covered. You do get a paper sheet to cover yourself, but check if you can bring a spare shawl or blanket too.
- Ask for a smaller speculum. Speculums come in different sizes, so if you find the standard size too uncomfortable, you can ask to try another size.
- Ask to lie in a different position. Lying on your back may feel uncomfortable for lots of reasons. You can ask to lie on your left hand side with your knees bent (left lateral position).
- If you have gone through or are going through the menopause, let your doctor or nurse know. As we get older, the opening of the vagina and vaginal walls become smaller and less able to stretch, which can make the test more uncomfortable. You can ask your nurse to give (prescribe) you a vaginal oestrogen cream or pessary, which may help.
To download the press release and picture, pleas click here